Summertime is often a signal to carefree days for children where many cannot wait to jump on their bikes and have fun. However, it is important to teach your children to always think of bike safety. While helping a child learn to ride a bike, it is important to teach them to follow the rules of the road and to wear reflective clothing so they can easily be seen. A key component to safety is wearing a bike helmet. A bike helmet is more than just a stylish accessory for children; it can save your child’s life.
According to the CDC, each year there are more than 500,000 visits to the emergency departments in the U.S. for bicycle-related injuries, and approximately 700 bicycle related deaths annually. Almost two-thirds of those injuries occur in children 15 years old or younger. Bicycle helmets provide protection against head trauma. Head trauma can lead to swelling in the brain, permanent damage to the brain leading to long term disability or even death. Injuries can occur anywhere, and even a fall from a bike to the sidewalk can lead to serious injury if a child is not wearing a helmet.
As a pediatrician, I have all too often cared for children with serious injuries from bike related accidents —and each time it is tragic. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps parents can take in order to help protect their children so they can enjoy this traditional summertime fun.
- Make sure that your child has a helmet and wears it any time they are on a bike. Set the rule that if your child does not have a helmet on, they cannot ride. It’s important to start early — even children riding a tricycle should be taught to wear a helmet. Do not compromise on this!
- Set a good example and wear a helmet yourself. Children will learn from you, and by showing them you wear a helmet, it will teach them how important it really is.
- Make sure that your child’s bike helmet fits properly. If it is too big or small, it will not provide adequate protection to your child’s very precious brain. Do not buy a helmet so they can grow into it. It should provide a snug fit, and adequately cover the forehead. If you are not sure if your child’s helmet fits well, ask! Most bicycle shops will have people on hand that can provide guidance, or look to the local Children’s hospitals, who often conduct for helmet fitting events , which can be invaluable to help you get hands on experience to learn how to properly fit the helmet to your child.
On that note, I’m pleased to invite you to a free bicycle helmet fitting hosted by Mercy Children’s Hospital this Friday, June 22. The event will be held at T.R. Hughes Field in St. Charles County, starting at 6 p.m. prior to the River City Rascals game. Mercy experts will be available throughout the game to help ensure your child’s helmet fits properly — please feel encouraged to bring your own helmets. I will also be on hand to answer your summer safety questions. As a member of the Executive Council for the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, we work with local communities to improve the health and safety of children.
Dr. Sandra McKay is a general pediatrician with Mercy Clinic O’Fallon Pediatric Partners. She is a native of the St Charles area and enjoys working with families to provide the best possible care. In addition she serves on several committees locally and statewide to promote child health and safety, and is on the Executive Council for the Missouri Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a board member of the Maternal Child and Family Health Coalition. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children, who know the rule: “No Helmet, No Bike.”